Buck talked a lot, especially with people who he was close with. He just liked filling the space. Silence reminded him of so many nights at home, when his parents would stay in their room, the door closed and barely the hum of a tv echoing down to his room. It reminded him of the nights at Abby’s apartment when he had been unwilling to admit that relationship had long been over. It reminded him of the nights when he went home to no one, while everyone closest to him had someone waiting for them.
So, he liked filling the silence with talking. Usually, it was just a useless fact he had learned while tumbling down the rabbit hole that was the internet. But he also talked about himself. Hell, he had dumped his entire childhood trauma on his team on a casual weekday morning. So, he had thought he had shared every pertinent fact about himself.
But clearly, he hadn’t done a good enough job. Because he was starting to think his friends didn’t know when his birthday was.
The crew from the 118 spent a lot of time together, both on and off shift. And they celebrated a lot of things together too. Athena and Bobby had invited Buck and everyone else to countless family and holiday dinners. The team had all gone to May’s graduation party. Maddie had planned a great birthday party for Chimney. So, Buck was hoping the team would do something for his birthday.
But as it got closer and closer to his birthday, Buck was starting to doubt it.
“Any big plans this weekend?” Buck looked up from his phone, a little hope striking through him. Hen had posed the question to everyone, but Buck sat up a little taller when he noticed her looking at him.
“Nope,” Buck said with a shrug. Hen nodded and he waited for her to say something or invite him to do something. But she simply turned towards Bobby.
“Athena and Michael switched up their usual weekends so Harry’s with us,” Bobby said.
“Maybe he and Denny can hang out,” Hen said. “Denny’s been going a little stir crazy with how rainy this week has been.” Neither seemed to notice Buck slink down in his seat on the couch.
“I’ll run it by Athena,” Bobby said. “I think Harry has a big science project he’s been putting off.” Hen nodded, a smirk on her face. “But I’m sure that we could spare an hour or two for Denny to come over.”
“Eddie,” Hen turned her gaze to Eddie, who was sitting next to Buck. Eddie, who had been looking at something on his phone, looked up. “If the boys had a playdate, would Christopher want to join?”
“He’s got a sleepover on Saturday,” Eddie said. “And then my Abuela wants us to get lunch with her on Sunday.”
“So you’ve got the house to yourself?” Hen asked with a smirk. “Inviting pretty Ms. Flores over?” Buck tried not to frown at the mention of Ana. Because Eddie dating was fine. It totally didn’t bother him that Eddie was dating Ana and not him because he totally wasn’t in love with his best friend. Eddie just shrugged and Buck bit the inside of his cheek, trying not to frown.
“Well it sounds like you’re all having a relaxing weekend,” Chimney piped in from his seat at the table. “Meanwhile, I have to bribe Albert to come over for like an hour or two just so Maddie and I can get out of the house.”
“Chim, you have a baby,” Hen pointed out. “Exhaustion is part of the job.”
“She’s supposed to be sleeping through the night,” Chimney said, letting his head fall on the table. Buck just sighed, getting up. He didn’t want to listen to this conversation anymore. It was clear that no one knew what Saturday was. “Buck!” He stopped when Chimney called out his name. “Would you babysit Joy so I can take Maddie on a date this weekend? My brother’s probably already got a date lined up for Saturday.”
Buck’s lips twisted into a line. He wanted to say something. He wanted to tell these people, the people who were supposed to be his friends, his family, that Saturday was his thirtieth birthday and he was hoping they would remember and want to celebrate it. But as they all stared at him, clearly unaware of the pain that they were causing him, he felt his heart break. Because clearly, they didn’t care about him the way he cared about them.
“Can’t.” Was all he could get out before turning on his heel and heading down the stairs. He could hear the echoes of the others talking, but he was sure it wasn’t about him.
After all, it was clear to him that they didn’t care about him.
“Hey dad?” Eddie looked away from the television towards Christopher. The boy was sitting on the ground, working on a card for his friend. The sleepover Christopher was going to later was for his friend’s birthday, so Christopher wanted to make him a card.
“What’s up buddy?” Eddie asked, muting the TV.
“Do you know when Buck’s birthday is?” Eddie tilted his head as Christopher put down his colored pencil. “I mean, Buck knows when our birthdays are, but I realized that I don’t know when his birthday is. And that seems kind of unfair, right?”
“You’re right kiddo, it is,” Eddie said. He realized, however, that he also didn’t know when Buck’s birthday was. He pulled out his phone and Christopher tilted his head a little. “I’ll text Chimney. If he doesn’t know, he can ask Maddie.” Christopher nodded, going back to his drawing. As Eddie settled on the couch, texting Chimney, an odd feeling passed over him.
Buck had been oddly quiet during yesterday’s shift, especially after everyone had discussed their weekend plans. In fact, he had barely seen Buck after that. As he finished texting Chimney, he briefly considered texting Buck, especially since he wanted to talk to him about something. But he could do that after he dropped Christopher off.
So, he tucked his phone away and turned towards his son, tucking those thoughts away for now.
“Should we do butternut squash or peas?” Chimney looked over at Maddie, who was standing at the fridge. She had two glass containers of baby food in her hand. Chimney looked at Joy, who was currently babbling as he bounced her in his arms.
“The butternut squash comes out easier in the wash,” Chimney pointed out.
“True,” Maddie said. “Also, your phone was buzzing.” Chimney nodded, adjusting Joy as he walked over to the kitchen island, where he had left his phone. He saw it was a text from Eddie and glanced over it quickly.
“Huh.” Maddie, who was putting away the peas, turned towards him. “Eddie’s asking when Buck’s birthday is. When is his birthday?” Maddie tilted her head before her eyes went wide. She let out a loud gasp as the jar in her hand tumbled to the ground. As it shattered against the kitchen floor, Maddie’s hand flew up to her mouth.
“Oh my god.” Her eyes started to tear up and Chimney’s eyes widened. “I’m the worst sister ever!”
“Today!” She shouted, tears starting to fall down her face. “His birthday is today!” Chimney’s eyes widened as he swallowed.
Buck groaned as his eyes slowly opened. His head was throbbing, his throat was dry, and opening his eyes felt like a chore. Simply put, he felt like he had been hit with an eighteen wheeler. As his eyes slowly opened, he looked around. He was lying in bed, but still wearing his clothes from the previous day. He racked his brain, trying to remember why he hadn’t undressed and why he felt awful.
“Are you alive up there?” A familiar voice called out. Buck sat up slowly, running his hand down his face. “I’ve got coffee and a gallon of water with your name on it.” Getting downstairs was a chore, but he somehow managed it. As he reached the kitchen, he spotted Taylor sitting at the kitchen table. She gave him a little wave and Buck tilted his head. “Give it a second.”
And then it all came back to him.
He had gone to the bar after work, thoroughly crushed that none of his friends, his family, had remembered that today was his birthday. And he had texted Taylor because he needed to vent to someone. And in Taylor’s case, it was totally fine that she didn’t know his birthday. They didn’t talk about that kind of stuff. He remembered Taylor coming to the bar and taking a lot of shots. But everything after that was a blur.
“Did we…” He started, pointing back and forth between them. She shook her head and Buck nodded, sighing a little.
“Felt a little wrong with the state you were in,” Taylor said as Buck poured himself a cup of coffee.
“I haven't been that drunk in awhile.” Buck said, taking a long sip of coffee. His head was throbbing and he was sure coffee wasn’t going to help, but he felt like death and needed it.
“That wasn’t what I meant,” Taylor said. Buck tilted his head and she sighed. “Drunkenness aside, I figured a hook-up wouldn’t fix the absolute devastation on your face the whole evening.” Buck frowned, setting the mug down. “I’m sorry, by the way.”
“It’s fine,” Buck said, crossing his arms. Taylor sighed before getting up. She crossed to Buck, who simply sniffed, already feeling those raw emotions crawling their way back.
“It’s okay if you’re not fine,” Taylor said gently. Buck sniffed again, tears starting to blur his vision.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m fine or not,” Buck whispered, looking down at the floor. “Nobody cares about how I feel. Not my sister, not Eddie, not anyone at the station, not any of my exes...They all just push me away, they all…” His words were cut off, a choked sob bubbling out. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to bury the breakdown that was fighting its way to the surface.
“Buck,” Taylor said softly. He looked up at her and through the haze of tears he could see a sad look on her face. “You do have people who care about you.”
“Then why…” His words trailed off, another sob pushing his way out of him. “Why does everyone leave me? Why does no one ever choose me? Why does nobody love me?”
“Oh Buck.” And then Taylor was pulling him into a hug. The last shred of resolve melted away as she hugged him. The first sob bubbled out, echoing through his apartment. From there, the floodgates were opened, Buck helpless to the breakdown that was crashing through him.
Eddie tried to calm the worry that was swirling through him. Buck wasn’t answering his calls and texts. He wasn’t answering anyone’s calls, in fact. And while Eddie knew that was their fault, that didn’t stop him from worrying.
After he had texted Chimney, he had gotten a very frantic phone call from both Chimney and Maddie, fretting over how they had forgotten Buck’s birthday. From there, it was a whirlwind of trying to rectify this situation. And while they had a plan in place, the hardest piece was getting in touch with Buck.
Eddie had probably called Buck more times than was normal. But he needed to talk to Buck. He felt awful for forgetting his birthday. And more so, he felt awful for not realizing that his and everyone else’s forgetfulness was why Buck had been so upset at work yesterday. In fact, he felt like a terrible friend who was too busy having his head up his own ass to realize that Buck was hurting.
He reached the door and raised his fist up to knock. But seeing how Buck had been dodging everyone’s calls, he wasn’t sure Buck would answer. So, he dug out his key and let himself in.
As he walked in, closing the door behind him, he heard the low hum of the television. He peered around the stairs and spotted Buck, clearly fast asleep on the couch.
“He’s nursing a brutal hangover.” Eddie turned, a little startled to hear another voice. He raised an eyebrow when he spotted Taylor, leaning against the kitchen counter. “But then again, drinking away your sorrows because the people closest to you forgot your birthday will do that.”
“Look, we all know we messed up,” Eddie said, keeping his voice down so to not wake Buck. “And we’re trying to fix that.”
“Yeah I can tell from how often his phone buzzed,” Taylor said with a shake of her head. “You know, it wasn’t too long ago that I was telling Buck he makes meaningful relationships everyday. But today I saw him doubt that.”
“We screwed up.”
“You hurt him,” Taylor said. “And If I thought watching him drink himself into oblivion is bad, then the breakdown he had this morning…” Eddie’s face paled and Taylor sighed. “I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but he was crushed. He still is.”
“I get it, okay?” Even though Eddie was trying to keep his voice down, he couldn’t help the guilt tearing through him. “Do you think I don’t feel like a jerk that my head was so far up my own behind about a stupid breakup that I didn’t realize he was hurting? Do you think I don’t feel terrible for not knowing something about a person who knows me better than I do? Because I do. I’ve been a crappy friend and I want to make that up to him.” Taylor just stared at him, slightly unimpressed and Eddie just huffed. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this. I should be talking to Buck.”
“Well,” Taylor started, before nodding behind him. Eddie turned, eyes widened when he saw Buck standing there. “Hey Buck, I’m going to get going.” Buck just nodded and Taylor walked over to him. “Call me if you need anything, okay?” He nodded again and she pressed a quick kiss to his cheek before leaving.
The apartment fell silent as soon as she was gone. Eddie didn’t know what to say. Buck deserved so much more than a crappy apology but that was all he had.
“You broke up with Ana?” Eddie raised an eyebrow, surprised that that was the first thing Buck said to him.
“I came over here to try and apologize and fix things and that’s what you’re focusing on?” Buck shrugged and Eddie sighed.
“I’m used to being let down,” Buck said and Eddie wanted to cross to him and just pull him into a tight hug. He moved to step forward, but Buck immediately stepped back, making it clear he wanted space. Eddie frowned, but Buck just walked over to the couch, sitting down. “Nobody ever chooses me. My parents, Maddie, Abby, Ali…” His voice trailed off, but he looked up at Eddie. Eddie swallowed, realizing Buck was including him in that list too.
“Buck,” Eddie started, walking over to the couch. When he sat down, he noticed Buck shift away, leaving space between them. “I can’t say this enough, but I’m so sorry. What’s going on in my life shouldn’t be an excuse for me being a bad friend.” Buck went to speak, but Eddie continued. “But you do have people who want to choose you, who want to be there for you. And yes, today is a terrible example of that. But everyone who is running around like a chicken with their head cut off to make this up to you wants to show you just that.”
“For now,” Buck said. “But then they’ll go back to focusing on their own lives and their own family. I mean, look around Eddie, what do I have? Every time I leave that station, I come home to this...to emptiness. Maybe everybody thinks they care but they don’t, not in the way I need them to.”
“I care,” Eddie said, moving closer to Buck. Buck just shook his head but Eddie pressed on. “No, Buck. I do care about you. You’re my best friend. My kid adores you. You’ve sacrificed your evenings off to hang out with a ten-year-old. You have the biggest heart and I…” His voice trailed off, the realization hitting him like a ton of bricks.
“Eds?” Buck asked, his voice barely above a whisper. Eddie just stared at Buck, his heart hammering in his chest.
“I love you.” Buck sucked in a breath, his body stiffening as the words left Eddie’s mouth. “I love you Buck. And not just because I screwed up today or because I’m suddenly single. I love you because you make my days better and brighter and I never want to imagine a world where you’re not around.”
“Eddie.” He could see tears forming in Buck’s eyes, a few slipping down past his cheeks. Eddie moved even closer, lifting his thumb to brush them away.
“I’m choosing you, Buck,” Eddie said, his thumb caressing Buck’s cheek. “And right now, you don’t have to choose me because I know I screwed up but…” His words were cut off by Buck colliding their lips together. Eddie was a little surprised at first, fully expecting that Buck was going to push him away or reject him. But as Buck’s lips moved against his, he melted into the kiss, warmth bubbling through him. Eddie’s hand slid from Buck’s cheek to the nape of his neck, angling his neck downward to deepen the kiss.
Eddie’s heart was pounding in his chest, euphoria striking through him. He wished he had realized sooner. He wished it hadn’t taken everyone hurting Buck so deeply for him to realize how deep his feelings for Buck were. But as he felt himself falling further into the kiss, his senses simply screaming Buck, Buck, Buck , he knew it didn’t matter. He’d gotten there eventually and it was clear that Buck reciprocated those feelings.
“I love you too,” Buck said, when they both finally had to pull away to suck in some much-needed oxygen. Eddie smiled, his fingers gently running through the short hairs on Buck’s neck. A blush crossed Buck’s cheeks as Eddie smiled at him. He wanted to lean back in, to kiss Buck senseless and make up for anything wrong he had ever done to hurt him. Buck clearly was keen on that idea, as he seemed to be gravitating back towards Eddie.
But then Eddie let out a sigh, letting his forehead rest against Buck’s.
“As much as I would like to continue that.” Buck smiled at that and it struck all the way down to Eddie’s heart, making him realize how truly gone he was on Buck. “But technically I was meant to come here, grovel for forgiveness and then convince you to come to Athena and Bobby’s.” Buck sighed. “They’re also very apologetic.”
“I don’t know,” Buck said, pulling away slightly.
“Bobby’s making the lasagna you like,” Eddie said, his thumb caressing Buck’s cheek. “And Hen is getting a cake. And she mentioned something about a red velvet cupcake that I didn’t get.” Buck smiled at that. “And Chris is going to be there.”
“I thought he had a sleepover?” Eddie just chuckled, smiling, because of course Buck would remember him mentioning that Christopher had a sleepover. Because even when they hurt him, Buck cared about all of them, far more than they deserved. But he’d make that up to him, if Buck would let him (which based on the soft way Buck was looking at him, he was starting to believe that Buck would let him).
“Well he refused to go when he found out how badly we had all screwed up,” Eddie said. “He said, and I quote, ‘Buck is more important’.”
“God I love that kid.” Eddie smiled, running his thumb across Buck’s cheek one more time before getting up.
“And he loves you,” Eddie said. “We both do.” He held his hand out to Buck. “So, are you coming?” Buck just smiled before taking Eddie’s hand and letting Eddie pull him up.
“Okay.” Eddie smiled, squeezing Buck’s hand. He gently tugged Buck away from the living room, ready to leave, when a thought occurred to him.
“By the way, you and Taylor?” Buck raised an eyebrow, an amused expression crossing his face.
“You’re really going to be jealous right now?” Eddie was sure his face flushed scarlet at the comment and Buck just chuckled before pressing a soft kiss to Eddie’s lips. “You’re adorable and also nothing happened. She was just being a good friend.”
“I’ll have to thank her then,” Eddie said, running his thumb over Buck’s knuckles. “And for her not kicking me out when I showed up.”
“Yeah, I’m really glad she didn’t either,” Buck said softly. And Eddie simply smiled before tugging Buck towards the door.
When Eddie’s car stopped in front of Athena and Bobby’s house, Buck felt his chest tighten a little. As much as he wanted to put on a smile for this party, there was a part of him that was still hurt. There was a part of him that was still stuck on everyone forgetting.
“Hey.” He glanced over at Eddie, who just reached out for his hand.
“I’m okay,” Buck said immediately. Eddie gave him a look and Buck sighed.
“No one’s expecting you to go in there and not be upset with us,” Eddie said, squeezing his hand. Buck just nodded. “Do you want a minute?” Buck was about to say something when he saw Maddie walk out of the house, holding Joy. He noticed her staring at the car, a sad expression on her face. Buck let out a long sigh and Eddie simply squeezed his hand.
“I should talk to Maddie.”
“Okay,” Eddie said. “But if you need an escape, I can send Christopher outside to get you.”
“Thank you,” Buck said with a soft sigh. “But I think I’ll be okay.” Eddie nodded, squeezing his hand again before getting out of the car. Buck watched as he walked towards the house, nodding to Maddie as he passed. Buck took another moment to compose himself before he got out of the car.
“Hi,” Maddie said as he approached. “I brought Joy with me, slightly hoping you’d be less mad at me if she was around.” Joy reached for Buck and he let her grab a hold of one of his hands.
“I’m not mad, Maddie,” Buck said. “I’m….I was really hurt that no one remembered. It made me feel like no one cared. But I know everyone’s busy. You especially.”
“Having a baby is no excuse for me to forget my own brother’s birthday,” Maddie said. “Everyone’s busy lives are not enough of an excuse to forget something so important to you.” Buck looked away, sniffing slightly. Instead of looking at his sister, he looked down at Joy’s tiny hands as she attempted to tug his hand closer to her.
“No it isn’t,” Maddie insisted. Buck looked up at her and he could see the sadness but also the sincerity in her eyes. “Buck, I know you’re used to being pushed away because of mom and dad. But real family, the people who really love you, the people in that house, they don’t want to push you away. Yes, we all screwed up and hurt you, but we’re your family and if you let us, we will be there for you.”
“Promise?” Buck asked, a small smile crossing his face. Maddie laughed before adjusting Joy so she could lift her hand up.
“Promise,” Maddie said, linking her pinky up. Buck hooked his pinky around hers. Joy babbled before placing her hand on top of there’s.
“Seems like the newest Buckley wants to learn about pinky promises.” Maddie laughed at that and Buck pressed a kiss to the side of Joy’s head. “Thanks Mads.”
“Thank you Buck,” Maddie said. “For coming. For giving us a chance to make this up to you. For just being you.”
“Love you Mads,” Buck said, wrapping an arm around her and giving her a half-hug. Maddie leaned into him, hugging him back with her free arm.
“Love you too, little brother.” Buck smiled, feeling some of the tension slipping away. He was still a little nervous to go inside, but he knew the people in there cared about him. So, with one last glance at his sister and his niece, he squared his shoulders and headed inside.
As Buck stepped inside, he could hear the soft drifting of voices moving towards him. He heard the door close, signaling that Maddie had followed him inside. Everyone else clearly heard the door shut too, as the talking seemed to stop.
“Buck!” Once he was in view of everyone, it was Christopher who shouted for him first. He made his way down the stairs, Christopher colliding with his legs as soon as he stepped onto the living room floor. He squatted down, smiling as the boy hugged him tightly. He was about to say something when he felt two more small bodies collide into him, sending him off balance. Out of instinct, he wrapped his arms tighter around Christopher as he fell backwards onto the floor.
“We want to hug you too, Buck!” Buck chuckled a little as he felt Denny and Harry crawling all over him to hug him just as tightly as Christopher was hugging him.
“Boys.” Denny and Harry both scrambled away as soon as Athena spoke. Buck just laughed again before standing up. He was going to set Christopher down, but the boy just tightened his hold on Buck, something that made him smile.
“Happy birthday Buck!” Christopher said, a bright grin on his face.
“Yeah, happy birthday kid,” Bobby said, walking over. He patted Buck’s arm as Buck glanced around the room. Everyone was watching him, as if waiting for him to say something. And even though the hurt was still there, seeing all these faces, these people who did care about him, simply made him smile.
“I heard something about lasagna?” Bobby nodded with a smile and everyone around him chuckled.
“And cake!” Christopher said, only making Buck’s smile grow.
“Well then, we should dig in, huh?” Christopher nodded and Buck glanced around the room again. And just seeing everyone’s smiles, Buck knew that these people were his family. Because even when they messed up, they did what they could to fix their mistakes.
And he was grateful for that.
“It’s your party, you don’t have to help with the food.” Buck looked up from the dish he had been putting out on the table. Everyone was milling around the house, loud chatter filling the place. Buck had offered to help Bobby and Athena set up, which they had just exchanged a glance before giving him dishes to set out.
“I know,” Buck said with a shrug. “But I wanted to. Besides, I figured if I was over here, I could con Bobby into telling me his lasagna recipe.”
“I don’t think you’d have to work that hard,” Athena said with a smile. She glanced over at Bobby, who was putting the finishing touches on the last dish. “You two might drive each other crazy, but you’re family, Buckaroo.” Buck smiled at that. She patted his cheek before walking over to where May and Harry were.
“Everything alright?” Buck turned his head as Bobby walked over, setting the last dish down.
“Yeah,” Buck said with a smile. “I was just telling Athena I need to convince you to give me the recipe for that lasagna.”
“I can make you a copy of the recipe,” Bobby said.
“But I thought it was an old family recipe.” Bobby simply smiled, patting Buck’s shoulder.
“Exactly kid,” Bobby said. “And you’re family. Even when we’re all too self-involved to notice that you’re hurting.”
“Bobby it’s…” But Bobby shook his head, cutting him off.
“It’s not fine, kid,” Bobby said. “We should all know this stuff by now. And more so, we should know when you’re hurting. You’re talkative when you’re in a good mood and you’re quiet when you’re not. We should all be able to acknowledge that and help make you feel better, especially when we’re the ones that hurt you.”
“You didn’t do it on purpose.”
“Still,” Bobby said. “You know, about a year ago you told me that I was someone very important to you. Well you’re important to me too, kid.”
“Thanks Bobby,” Buck said with a small smile. Bobby just nodded before pulling Buck into a hug. Buck hugged him back, remembering what he had said to TK when he had been in Texas. Bobby was more of a father figure than his own dad. Because while he had been heartbroken that the team had forgotten his birthday, he hadn’t even batted an eye when his parents hadn’t reached out. So, having Bobby apologize and telling Buck how much he meant to him, well that meant everything to Buck.
“You’re a good kid, Buck,” Bobby said, pulling away. “And I’m sorry if I don’t tell you that enough.”
“You do,” Buck said with a smile. “But thank you for saying it anyways.”
“Of course,” Bobby said. “Why don’t you round everyone up for dinner and I’ll cut the best piece of lasagna for you.” Buck nodded, the smile never leaving his face as he turned towards the living room.
Buck smiled as he watched the kids run around the backyard. May had her phone out, filming her whatever craziness Harry was getting up to, while Christopher laughed at Harry’s actions. Denny and Nia were playing nearby, Denny helping his little sister throw a football.
“Hey.” He looked away, towards the vacant seat next to him. Eddie had been sitting there, but had ducked inside to dump their finished plates and grab each of them another drink. But it wasn’t Eddie getting his attention, but Chimney. “Mind if I steal Eddie’s seat for a bit?”
“Not at all,” Buck said with a shrug. Chimney sat down next to him with a slight sigh. “Joy seems to be having a good time.”
“She loves all of the attention,” Chimney said. “I think everyone else likes having a baby around that they don’t have to take care of twenty-four-seven.” Buck chuckled at that. “I know Maddie talked to you, but I wanted to as well.”
“We should’ve known it was your birthday,” Chimney said. “And I’m sorry that we didn’t. I could make excuses about work and Joy, but they’re not good enough. You deserve better from us Buck.”
“Chim, it’s okay.”
“It’s really not, Buck,” Chimney said. “Look, I know I act like you’re like an annoying little brother, but you are my brother.”
“That’s just because of Maddie.” Chimney shook his head and Buck raised an eyebrow.
“I love your sister,” Chimney began. “And I’m so grateful she came to visit you here and decided to stay and you were totally okay with me dating her…”
“Well she deserves to be happy,” Buck pointed out. “And you’re a great guy, Chim.”
“And that’s exactly what I mean,” Chimney said, continuing on. “Through everything, you’ve been a good friend and an even better brother, Buck. And I’m sorry I haven’t done the same on my end.”
“Just keep taking care of my sister and my niece and we’ll call it even,” Buck said, sticking out his hand. Chimney smirked and shook Buck’s hand.
“Deal.” Buck smiled as he pulled his hand away. He was about to change the topic of conversation, when Hen came over.
“Maddie needs your help,” Hen said. “Joy needs her diaper changed.”
“Duty calls,” Chimney said, standing up. He patted Buck’s shoulder and Buck shot him a smile. “Thanks Buckaroo.” Buck nodded as he headed inside. Once he was out of earshot and Hen had taken the empty seat next to Buck, he turned to face her.
“I thought Maddie just changed Joy’s diaper?”
“She did,” Hen said with a smirk. “But I needed to get rid of Chim so I could talk to you.” Buck smiled at that. “Enjoying the party?”
“It’s been great,” Buck said with a nod. “Even with the apology tour.”
“Picked up on that, huh?” Buck just nodded again and Hen sighed a little. “We are all really sorry, Buckaroo.”
“Hen, you of all people don’t have to apologize,” Buck said. “You’ve been there for me more times I can count. You basically kept me from actually getting fired and you welcomed me back when I finally got back to work at the station.”
“Which is why I should’ve noticed when you were hurt, when we hurt you.” Buck sighed. “You know, we work as a team because everyone plays an integral part. And you’re the heart of our team Buck. You care so much; about patients, about the callers, about us. And you deserve people who care just as much about you.”
“And I know you guys do,” Buck said. “I didn’t need this party to know that.”
“But it helps, right?” Buck chuckled, but nodded. Hen smiled, patting his knee before getting up. Buck sighed as she walked away, leaning back in his chair. Even though everyone felt like they needed to apologize, he didn’t really need it. Even through the hurt, he knew how much these people cared about him. How could he not see that?
“Everything okay?” Eddie asked, taking the seat next to Buck. And Buck just smiled, knocking his knee with Eddie’s.
“Yeah. Everything’s great.” And knowing that the smile had barely left his face the whole evening, he knew he was telling the truth.
“So, why the red velvet cupcake?” All of the adults were sitting around the living room, enjoying their desserts. The kids, minus Nia and Joy, had disappeared into the dining room to play games on Harry’s switch, though they had grown quiet over the last five minutes. While everyone had chosen slices of cake or fruit salad, Hen had insisted Buck have the red velvet cupcake and who was Buck to say no?
“Because it bleeds when you cut it,” Buck said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Hen chuckled and reached over, squeezing Buck’s arm.
“I’m a little offended that Hen and Buck have an inside joke that I’m not in on,” Chimney said. “I mean, that’s my best friend and the guy who’s practically my brother-in-law.”
“Everything’s not about you, Chim,” Hen said, giving him a look. Chimney blanched at that and everyone chuckled at the look on his face. Maddie just patted his knee, giggling a little.
“You do have to tell me where you get these cupcakes, Hen,” Buck said, finishing his cupcake. “Because they’re delicious and I could use a new cheat day food.”
“Or you just let me keep surprising you with them,” Hen said. Buck smiled and nodded. “But if someone else wanted to know…” She briefly glanced at Chimney before looking pointedly at Eddie. “I might be willing to tell them.”
“Noted,” Eddie said with a small smile. His arm had been resting behind Buck’s chair since they had sat down. And if everyone wasn’t trying to make up what they had done to Buck, he was sure they would’ve all made sly comments or asked about that. But they hadn’t, which meant they had at least one day of reprieve from the teasing that was bound to come.
“Dad.” Christopher made his way into the living room. Once he reached Eddie’s seat, he reached a hand up to his eye, rubbing it a few times and yawning.
“Tired, mijo?” Eddie asked and Christopher nodded. Athena peered towards the dining room, chuckling.
“Seems like Harry and Denny are too,” Athena said. “Because I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to play video games while fast asleep.” Everyone chuckled softly at that. Buck looked around. Nia was fast asleep, curled up on Hen and Karen’s laps, using them as pillows. Maddie was holding Joy, but the baby was fast asleep.
“Hey Chris,” Buck said as the boy came towards him. “How about I help your dad get you home?” Christopher just nodded and held his arms up. Buck smiled, standing and scooping the boy up. Christopher’s head immediately landed on his shoulder, his eyes closing. “I think a lot of people need to go to bed.”
“You sure Buckaroo?” Athena asked.
“Yeah,” Buck said with a soft smile. “But thank you guys, for doing this. I really appreciate it.”
“Thank you for coming,” Bobby said, getting up to pat Buck’s shoulder.
“Thanks for everything Bobby,” Buck said as Bobby pulled him into a side hug, since Buck was holding Christopher. When he pulled away, he was pulled into several other hugs by Chimney, and then Maddie (who passed Joy to Chimney in order to hug her brother). Hen and Karen waved from where they were sitting, not wanting to wake Nia. Buck started moving towards the stairs, Eddie tailing after him.
“Get home safe you three,” Athena said, as she held the door open for them. Buck smiled, to which he got one of her soft, patented Athena Grant-Nash smiles.
“So,” Eddie said, once they were outside and Christopher was buckled into the backseat. “A good evening?”
“Yeah,” Buck said with a smile. Eddie smiled, reaching out for Buck’s hand and squeezing it, before letting go and walking to the front seat. As he got into the car, Buck just looked back at the house, the smile on his face.
Because even after all the hurt, he still got to celebrate his birthday. His family had chosen him. And that filled him with a warmth he couldn’t describe.
Buck smiled as Eddie pulled the covers up to Christopher’s chest, ruffling his son’s hair as he did. Buck had originally planned to just wait in the living room while Eddie put Christopher to bed. But when they had gotten in the house, Christopher hadn’t wanted to let go of Buck. So, while Eddie had helped Christopher get ready for bed (since the boy could barely keep his eyes open, let alone get his pajamas on), Buck had just leaned against the doorframe, just reminding himself why he adored both of the Diaz boys.
“Buck?” He was pulled out of his thoughts by Christopher’s soft voice. Both him and Eddie were looking at him and Eddie nodded for Buck to come over. He walked over to the bed and sat down, smiling at Christopher.
“What’s up Superman?” He asked, gently moving some of Christopher’s hair off his face.
“Did you have a good birthday?” Buck just smiled and leaned down to hug Christopher.
“I did,” Buck said, pressing a kiss to the side of Christopher’s head. As he pulled away, Christopher was smiling, albeit very sleepily.
“Next year, you’ll spend the whole day with Dad and I.” Buck glanced at Eddie who was watching both of them with a fond idea.
“I love that idea,” Buck said softly.
“Get some sleep kiddo,” Eddie said, leaning down to press a kiss to the top of Christopher’s head. As Eddie headed towards the door, Buck followed after him. By the time Eddie was flipping the light switch off, Christopher was fast asleep, the only sound in the room, his light breathing. As they both stepped into the hallway, Buck pulled the door closed, leaving it open just slightly, like he knew Eddie always did.
“Let’s talk,” Eddie said softly, interlacing his fingers with Buck’s. And Buck just nodded, following Eddie down the hallway towards the living room.
The feeling of Buck’s hand in his was something Eddie was never going to get over. Their fingers fit perfectly together that it just made Eddie's heart soar. So even as they sat down on the couch, Eddie didn’t let go of Buck’s hand. But then again, based on the smile on Buck’s face, he didn’t seem to mind.
“So, you wanted to talk?” Buck asked.
“Yeah,” Eddie said, running his thumb across Buck’s knuckle. “About earlier...in your apartment.” Buck frowned. “Nothing bad just…”
“Eddie, what is it?” Buck asked, a look of concern on his face.
“I was worried you were going to push me away,” Eddie said softly. “Earlier, I mean, when I told you how I felt. It’s not like I didn’t deserve just as much but…”
“I was never mad,” Buck said, his fingers interlacing with Eddie’s other hand. “Hurt? Definitely. But I could never be mad at you. At any of you.”
“We really don’t deserve you,” Eddie said. “You’ve really got the best heart.” Buck smiled at that and Eddie found himself smiling as well. After all, Buck had the most infectious energy that just made his heart beat faster.
“Promise not to break it?” There was a hint of teasing in Buck’s voice but Eddie could see the vulnerability in his eyes. Eddie didn’t respond, choosing to lean closer to Buck instead. Buck shivered as Eddie’s lips brushed against his. Eddie’s lips twitched up into a smile as he felt Buck’s breath quicken. “Eddie?”
“I promise.” Eddie said before pressing a soft, chaste kiss to Buck’s lips. “I promise to protect it and cherish and to choose it...to choose you, for as long as you’ll let me.”
“God, I love you,” Buck whispered before pressing a long kiss to Eddie’s lips. And as Eddie found himself mesmerized by the feeling of Buck’s lips against his, he knew everything he said was true.
He was choosing Buck. And he was lucky enough that Buck was choosing him right back.